Is Nigeria in a quandary or the nation is jinxed or else what can someone say of a country where in a spate of two weeks, stakeholders in two of the nation’s critical sectors – education and health – went on strike almost simultaneously. The Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) went on strike a fortnight ago over Federal Government’s non-implementation of its part of agreements reached with the ASUU over some monetary issues and others.
The strike is yet to be called off after series of meetings with the Federal Government and ASUU. As if that is not enough, the Nigerian Association of Resident Doctors (NARD) equally embarked on an indefinite strike penultimate week. Thus the decrepit and comatose health sector received a deadly bash by the strike.
Ever since, a lot of meetings had been held between the Federal Government and NARD without fruitful results. NARD hinged its action on equally intransigence of the Federal Government in fulfilling its parts of the agreement with NARD. The Federal Government had been dilly-dallying and toying with the future of our youths and the health of the poor people in the country. Last week, Labour Minister, Chris Ngige boasted that the NARD strike would be the shortest ever, and the last in the country, wherein lies his boast.
The truth of the matter is that the fallout of the strike is in the number of lives that had been lost, in some cases, worst cases had been turned back from hospitals even with the Health Minister Isaac Adewole’s directive to consultants and specialists to join the rest in treating the patients.
No matter how, the ultimate solution to this problem is for the Federal Government to reach a compromise with NARD on modalities to end this avoidable strike by honouring its part of the agreement reached with NARD to stem further loss of lives.
For very many years, successive governments had paid lip service to the health sector, where the World Health Organisation directed countries to invest a minute amount of their budgets in healthcare.
Nigeria had not been able to implement this directive, hence the decayed health structure in the country ditto for some other sectors, the government prefers to waste money on frivolities and on non-productive National Assembly in terms of outrageous salaries and allowances.
Henceforth, the Federal Government should continue with its dialogues with ASUU and NARD for acceptable solution to these lingering strikes. If possible, it should adopt the policy of collective bargaining to end the strikes. On top of these, the government should as a matter of probity and accountability pay the money owed these striking unions without delay.
The loss of lives and the quantity of months lost to these strikes in terms of closure of universities and hospitals is unquantifiable. The government should NEVER be a debtor to its citizens in terms of salaries and allowances. It should beam its searchlight on thieving officials wanting to cut corners, thereby surcharging the government.
On the part of ASUU and NARD, they should soft-pedal in their insistence on certain issues of monetary concerns bearing in mind that the country is just exiting from recession while they continue with their roundtable with the government.
We hope with time, things will sort out themselves by meaningful dialoguing with parties.
We salute the leadership of Nigeria Association of Nigerian Students (NANS) for their equanimity by not calling on their members on protest in the face of extreme provocation.
Enough is enough of the Federal Government’s grandstanding on strikes. It should preempt strikes and not instigate industrial actions on flimsy excuses. We call on the Federal Government to pay what it owes the striking unions promptly.